Eagle County Schools to make call on back-to-school model on Aug. 10
Eagle County Schools will begin the academic year in one of three models on Aug. 25. Which model that will be is contingent on the epidemiological health of the county, with the district on Tuesday alerting parents, students and teachers that a decision will be made on Aug. 10.
The six-member school board passed its reopening plan at its June 22 meeting where the board also approved moving the start of school back a week.
Just like Eagle County has three classifications of community health related to COVID-19, the district has three scenarios for returning to school.
Currently, Eagle County is in the “concerned” zone of its COVID-19 risk meter — its highest level — with public health officials noting that new case levels have appeared to plateau, albeit at a higher rate of infection than what they would like to see.
The corresponding color for “concerned” on the county’s “key performance indicators” dashboard is red. The other zones are “comfortable” (green) and “cautious” (yellow).
Likewise, the three scenarios for returning to school are: Green (back to normal for all), yellow (four days a week for elementary, middle, and Red Canyon High school and a hybrid schedule for Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain high schools and Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy) and red (remote learning for all).
Superintendent Philip Qualman, in the district’s Tuesday release, said officials are hopeful that conditions will improve so that students can start the school year with in-class learning.
Qualman made a plea to the community at the June 22 meeting to take the county’s public health advice seriously and work together to get kids and teachers back into schools.
“We have five weeks to fix this,” Qualman said. “We have to do all we can to push that needle back down in the yellow zone. Don’t have your block party barbecue. Do your birthday virtually. I’ve seen it in my own family and I’ve seen it in my neighborhood. I would love to go hang out. But we have an obligation as a district to get these students back on track.”
He added: “We’ve got to get schools open.”
The district, in its release, also noted that changes in the county’s reporting to different phases will trigger transition periods from the district.
So, if local schools are operating in the “cautious” zone and the conditions change to “concerned,” the district will take a day off and transition to remote learning. Inversely, if students and teachers are operating remotely and conditions improve to “cautious,” school officials will wait 14 days to ensure stability in the status, then return to the modified in-person instruction.
Qualman said school officials encourage and advise parents to remain enrolled in their neighborhood school.
“Our schools are prepared to accommodate short-term sporadic remote learning due to extended absences related to COVID-19 illness or quarantine,” he said. “This will maintain student/teacher relationships and friendships. If you have concerns about our eventual return to in-person instruction, please contact your principal to discuss and collaboratively problem-solve.”
Qualman also said in the release that a more complete guidebook for parents and staff will be finalized this week and distributed electronically. Printed versions will be available shortly thereafter.
“Thank you for your patience and continued support,” Qualman said. “We believe, ‘if we work together, then we’ll be able to learn together.’ This year will require unprecedented collaboration, patience, and support. Let’s start by making an effort now to drive down the rate of infection in our community to the Yellow/Cautious zone so we can get students back into schools.”